A shutdown of logic
Failure in leadership induces Congressional impasse
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 00:10
When the clock struck midnight on Oct. 1, what was inevitable transpired: We entered a federal government shutdown.
We now face intensified uncertainty and risk grave economic consequences. And we are now in this predicament because congressional leadership was too irresponsible to reach a budget agreement – because Speaker John Boehner has allowed the extremists in his party to hold the government hostage to their all-or-nothing demands.
“They’ve lost their minds,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said. “They keep trying to do the same thing over and over again.”
Each time the House Republicans sent Senate Democrats their proposal for a budget deal, they included the very stipulation Democrats made clear they would not negotiate on.
The Republicans have repeatedly said this reflects unwillingness from the president and congressional Democrats to compromise.
But we reject the notion that this is about compromise.
As E.J. Dionne, a Washington Post columnist, brilliantly illuminated on Jansing & Co, it’s as if someone took your house and told you, ‘I’ll give it back to you, but only if you agree to let me burn down two rooms first. Then, I’m happy to compromise. Once we take out those rooms, we’ll gladly give you your house back.’
The Affordable Care Act has not only gone through each branch of government – the American people affirmed it in 2012. They had one candidate who said he wanted to repeal Obamacare, and one who said he wanted to implement it. In overwhelming numbers, the American people chose the latter.
What Republicans need to accept is that Obamacare is now law and it is time to let its implementation proceed and its efficacy be tested.
This impasse is the biggest strategic mistake the Republicans could make – and it could be more emblematic of their real fears that Obamacare may not be as unpopular as they want it to be.
If they are so confident that Obamacare will fail and that “millions of Americans” hate it, then it will surely be unpopular enough to propel more Republicans into the House and Senate in 2014. Then, in that case, they may have the votes to repeal the law and do so in a constitutional manner.
Remember, the unpopularity of the health care law caused Republicans to gain 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate in the 2010 midterm elections. So, if history were our greatest indicator of what implementation this law could do to the electorate, the Republicans should like those odds.
But they haven’t been operating under that rationale. They have been acting like children throwing a temper tantrum – demanding to get their way or else they will explode.
But this is no explosion; this is an implosion. An implosion that impacts the American people more than anyone else – the people they are in office to represent and serve.
As of Tuesday, more than 800,000 federal workers’ jobs have been furloughed; all national parks are closed; and all non-essential government functions have stopped.
And some of the programs and services that those living in poverty depend upon are being held.
Interestingly enough, however, the same day all this happened, Obamacare took effect. The very law they are trying to prevent is operating amidst the stalemate. If this is extended long enough, however, with no budget agreed upon, the entire economy could collapse.
After five years devoted to a recovery, you would think most of Congress would consider the welfare of the people over their personal desires for a certain legislative framework.
To continue pushing forward this goal that is unworkable is a model of madness. It is utter irony for them to proclaim they are working for the betterment of the people as their method to do so risks damaging them so severely.
What we have seen from Tea Party Republicans forcing us into this quagmire is an attempt to represent the president as the intransigent one – the one unwilling to compromise.
But for a minority of extremists, running on a tantrum that threatens to hurt the masses if they can’t impose their own rigid ideology on a democratic government, this argument has no credence. It is a form of hypocrisy so bizarre it surpasses the point of oddball humor.
It is the systematic use of legislative force as a means of coercion.
What President Obama must exude during this crisis is a stance even these far-right radicals shouldn’t dare disagree with: That he doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.